Travel

Where to Pregame Like a Pro near Arlington’s AT&T Stadium

From tacos and tequila to lagers and lobsters, here's where to get your fill before hitting the stadium.

Photo courtesy of Visit Arlington, Texas
Photo courtesy of Visit Arlington, Texas
Photo courtesy of Visit Arlington, Texas

No longer fit to be disregarded as Dallas and Fort Worth’s little sister, Arlington has had quite the glow up in recent years. In particular, the area surrounding the hulking AT&T Stadium has blossomed into a sprawling network of entertainment options, from quality dining and posh speakeasy-style cocktail dens to tailgate-ready beer gardens, and tropical hideaways-all conveniently located just a few minutes away from the home of the Cowboys (not to mention the Rangers, the convention center, and more than a few star-studded mega-concerts).

Whether you’re gearing up to catch a ballgame, planning out your bucket list NFL trip, or popping in to see some of the biggest acts in the world hit the stage (we’re looking at you, Taylor Swift), here’s everywhere to eat, drink, and party in Arlington, Texas.

Arlington Clover Club

Bask in the sunny views of AT&T Stadium’s lush, green grounds while downing craft cocktails at this breezy outdoor bar connected to the District, Live! By Loews Hotel. Towering marble columns, splashy water features, and cozy sunken seating add to the dramatic panorama, especially at night, when the stadium illuminates like a giant glowing orb in the near-distance. Menu-wise, shareable bites keep things light while spicy margaritas, crowd-pleasing punches, and frosty frosé fuel the pre- or post-event festivities.

Photo courtesy of Cartel Taco Bar
Photo courtesy of Cartel Taco Bar
Photo courtesy of Cartel Taco Bar

Cartel Taco Bar

Gear up with some tasty Tex-Mex at this buzzy counter-serve offering from the gut-busting team behind local gem Grease Monkey Burger Shop. Fillings run the gamut from tender, straight-forward barbacoa and smoky shrimp to the Urban Union addition’s boundary-pushing signature, chicken-bacon-mac-and-cheese, plus a host of appetizers, drinks, bowls, beer, wine, and cocktails. The best part? This joint stays open late-till midnight on the weekends and 11 pm during the week-and the complex also provides a shuttle service to the stadium so you can make good use of their ample tequila selection.

The Tipsy Oak

Also at Urban Union, you’ll find this group-friendly gastropub peddling more than 30 craft beers alongside cheffed-up comforts throughout its gorgeous open-air patio. For food, expect poutine, Korean barbecue burgers, Thai-style salmon, and more. And if nothing gets you in the mood for live entertainment quite like an extra dose of live entertainment, you’re in luck-the Tipsy Oak hosts bands every Thursday through Saturday nights.

Photo courtesy of Division Brewing
Photo courtesy of Division Brewing
Photo courtesy of Division Brewing

Division Brewing

Arlington’s very first locally owned and operated brewery is making its home city proud with a roster of easy-drinking blonde ales and ambers, smooth wheat beers, citrusy IPAs, robust stouts and porters, and quirky, fruit-inflected sour beers. Kick back with a pint and revel in the colorful, DIY atmosphere while taking in a quick live music set or a rousing round of pub trivia before making your way down to the stadium.

Inspirations Fork & Table

Started as a catering service, this tiny mom-and-pop shop packs a huge punch into its limited-seating Urban Union cafe. The daily lineup changes constantly, with nods to seasonality coursing through each dish, but their famous charcuterie boards are always up for grabs. If you’re lucky enough to snag a table inside, prepare for home-cooked eats followed by indulgent desserts-don’t worry, you’ll dance it all off later at the show.

Photo courtesy of 4 Kahunas Tiki Lounge
Photo courtesy of 4 Kahunas Tiki Lounge
Photo courtesy of 4 Kahunas Tiki Lounge

4 Kahunas Tiki Lounge

Stepping into 4 Kahunas is like walking into a dimly lit dream, one where festive porcelain glasses are set ablaze with bursts of orange fire, endless curios line the walls, and the laid-back, tropical vibes permeate every square-inch of the space. Opened by four friends back in 2018, don’t be fooled by the playful decor-this spot is serious when it comes to the drinks. The tiki classics (Mai Tais, Zombies) are all accounted for, while the original creations provide a perfect platform for the talented barkeeps to strut their stuff. Don’t miss the Cobra’s Fang, an intoxicating blend of overproof rum, absinthe, lime, passion fruit, orange, falernum, and bitters, or the tequila-based Suffering Siren, which introduces a little Texas twang to the island oasis

Hearsay Arlington

Sneak into this newly opened covert cocktail bar and you’ll be rewarded with an evening full of top-notch drinks, opulent surf-and-turf favorites, and live piano tunes. Consider it the anti-tailgate, a loungey take on the modern speakeasy complete with plush booths and a Gatsby-inspired aesthetic that transports you to a different era, eons away from the tech-savvy stadium lurking just outside. Leave the keg beer and hot dogs behind and instead opt for butter-roasted Maine lobster accompanied by the aptly named Fitzgerald (Citadelle gin, lemon juice, rich simple syrup, aromatic bitters, dehydrated lemon garnish).

Photo courtesy of Live By Loews - Arlington, TX
Photo courtesy of Live By Loews – Arlington, TX
Photo courtesy of Live By Loews – Arlington, TX

Cut & Bourbon

Nothing soothes the post-late night partying soul like a gargantuan brunch spread, and Cut & Bourbon inside Live! By Loews Arlington has your back with enough sweet and savory favorites to satisfy the entire concert crew no matter how deep you’ve rolled. Load up on pancakes, waffles, fresh fruit, and pastries or help yourself to heaping platters of farm-fresh eggs and overstuffed breakfast burritos while downing your weight in fizzy mimosas. Or coffee, you do you.

Revolver Brewhouse

Texas legend Revolver has officially set up shop at Texas Live!, bringing along with it a healthy showing of their award-winning beers as well as a small-batch experimental brewery cranking out never-before-tasted originals for your pre-gaming pleasure. The handsome tasting room opens onto an inviting beer garden, the perfect place to post up with a pitcher and soak up the rays before the big game.

Photo courtesy of Hurtado Barbecue
Photo courtesy of Hurtado Barbecue
Photo courtesy of Hurtado Barbecue

Hurtado Barbecue

This family-run DFW darling’s first brick-and-mortar space is still killing the game with a solid bill of critically acclaimed brisket, brisket, and more brisket-plus juicy spare ribs, house-made sausage, pulled pork, bacon burnt ends, hatch chile mac and cheese, and tater tot casserole. Order up a spread, polish it off with some whipped banana pudding, and you’ll be in good shape for a three-hour ballgame no matter how far from the concession stands your seats may be.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Meredith Heil is the Editorial Director of Thrillist Travel. She’s originally from St. Louis, now lives in Washington, DC, and in between has visited all 50 states plus dozens of countries. Rejoining Thrillist in 2021 after several years of freelancing, she earned an MA in Social Documentation from UC Santa Cruz and previously served as a content editor at Google as well as a staff writer for Thrillist’s Food & Drink team. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Wine Enthusiast, Eater, Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, PUNCH, and Condé Nast Traveler, among other publications. She loves all things cocktails, crosswords, and women’s soccer. Follow along with @mereditto.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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